Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Minnesota Breweries One by One #16: Forager Brewery, Rochester

For the second stop in Rochester we chose Forager Brewery, as our collective stomachs were rumbling, and this one is a brewpub with food and beer that's come highly recommended. It's at 1005 6th St. NW, just a block away from our next stop, Kinny Creek, which has no food and did not come highly recommended. But we would visit them and drink some of their beers, because we must. As for Forager, I was ready and raring to go.

Stuffed moose looming over the taps.
I'd read articles, reviews and gotten in-person recommendations about Forager, so I was set up to be satisfied. But after seeing so many blasé' taprooms and brewpubs, maybe I wasn't prepared to be quite so enchanted. Once in the building, we encounter the Kutzky Market coffee shop & market, which was loaded with all kinds of it's own charm, but we marched on, because we were in search of beer. So, we pass down a hallway, the right side of which is a wall filled with framed watercolor images depicting the beers they have been brewing since they opened last fall. I wish I could have spent more time viewing this beautiful artwork. (but you can see some, on their site.)To the left, a couple of rooms which appeared as if they were magic portals into another, more perfect world. Antique furniture, amazing artwork, bookcases full of what must certainly be incredible books, loading with loads of arcane information, gorgeous chairs....what were people doing in those incredible rooms? Could I go in? Would they have me? It all seemed so comfortable and insular in those rooms, so safe, so gentle. But, onward to beer.

Starry-Eyed Belgian Blonde.
We did the belly up, Dan, Jason, and I, while I left a seat for Scott Lyke, local beer guru, who would be along shortly. I took quite a while just soaking up the decor. On the wall to the left of my seat, a chalkboard detailing the wines and spirits available. The wines were unfamiliar to me, but the alcohol was all from Minnesota and Wisconsin distilleries. (Forager is a brewpub, which in Minnesota means that they can have a liquor license and can serve beers from other breweries, but can't distribute to bars or liquor stores. Why? Just because. I certainly don't know.) Above a door leading to the brewery, another chalkboard alerts us to what beers are currently fermenting. And following to the right, a first in my experience, a beer menu that uses neither chalkboard nor LED TV screen, but painted boards from locally foraged wood hanging under a frame. Little touches like that compounded upon one another make for delight after delight. I scanned the room and kept coming up with more details that struck my fanciful nature to it's core.

Well, that's all well and good, but what of the beer, Al, you're asking, of course. I decided to start somewhat small and easy, with the Starry-eyed Blonde, a Belgian-style blonde, 6.3% ABV, and 18 IBU. Amber-hued, sweet and malty, with a wild and funky side. Just about perfect. The official description says: "aromas of banana, Bartlett pear, and ripe apple. Flavors of bold, caramelized plantains..." While I didn't get that, exactly, I've got to appreciate that they're out there looking.

With the arrival of Scott, our caravan has
grown to a quartet of happy beer
drinkers. Cheers!
Blaze A Trail Experimental Pale Ale.
From there, I turned to a glass of Blaze-A-Trail, an experimental APA, at 5.6% ABV, with an unknown IBU number. It also has an alias, "Dr. Rudi's melons", and I'm afraid I've wholly forgotten why, nor can I find anything about that in their official descriptions. I was delighted by a lemon-y, melon-y nose, a fresh and zesty taste, with a medium body and a malty mouthfeel that I found flat-out lovely. Glass by glass, I was taken in by this place. We dined on 2 different 10 -inch wood fire pizza, including the Hidden Stream, with delicious pork, and later the Piggie Pie, with cream cheese, roasted pepper, sausage and mozzarella. I would like to return again and again to try more of the menu, it all looked promising and inviting. Look over here, and see for yourself.

Haka New Zealand Double IPA.
I listened to Scott as he told me what he knew about the place, the brewer and owners and their history, all the while scoping the space, taking in the artwork, the chandeliers, the live music area (unoccupied at the time). Took occasional tastes of Dan and Jason's beers. Dan went with the Johnny C Brown, a Belgian-style dubbel, and Jason's choice was the Sherpa's Survival Kit, a double coffee chocolate stout that was mighty impressive. I would have taken some home with me, but we were informed that there were no crowlers (didn't say whether they were sold-out of pre-fills, wouldn't fill on demand, the machine was broken, or what the problem was), and that they didn't fill growlers. Too bad. I definitely wanted to bring back a few.

I had a third glass, this time an IPA (I seemed to have given the job of tasting the darker ales to my companions) called Haka, and referred to as a New Zealand DIPA. 8% ABV, 50 IBU, sweet, yet sharp, bitter, but fruity. Flavors of melon and pineapple, medium-bodied, smooth & tasty. Excellent balance. I was very happy with this one, we're three for three.

From the decor and ambience, to the food and beer and everything, I was impressed with this place. They've really got it going on. Any trip to Rochester without a visit to Forager is a wasted one.

On a final note, I did a little looking at reviews on yelp, and found interesting comments. One person admired the place, but likened it to a hipster haven, saying "if you own a fedora and a plaid shirt, this place is for you." Another marked them down a notch, because their vibe didn't fit in with their conservative community of Rochester. Man, if you've got a population of 100, 000 and don't have an establishment as cool as this, what's wrong with you?


Jason B said...

Dr. Rudi and Huell Melon were the hop varieties used in that beer, giving us "Dr. Rudi's Melons".

AL MCCARTY said...

Thanks for clearing up my bad memory. I didn't see anything about those in their description online, so I doubted what I remembered from the visit.

Winston Wood said...

Hi Al, just made my first visit last Friday and my experience was nearly identical to yours, yet you were better able to put it into words. A truly special place

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